sharing in governance of extractive industries
Community liaison officers - or CLOs - play a vitally important role in developing and maintaining relationships with communities living close to the sites of company operations. When their role is structured and supported well, CLOs make an essential contribution to a company’s social licence to operate. Yet in regions where regulations and institutions are weak, where there is little awareness of the corporate world, and where needs and expectations are high, these roles can be very challenging – while CLOs often don’t get the full support that they need.
Despite this, there has been little effort to understand CLOs and the challenges they face in any kind of systematic way. There has been no cost-benefit analysis of the CLO role, for instance. The CLO ‘voice’ is missing in the literature on community engagement and the role is often viewed in terms of process, not in human terms. The resilience of individuals and teams is not well understood. And the effects of hiring decisions and team building on the CLO role have not been fully considered.
A recently published paper begins to address these gaps: Community liaison officers:exploring the frontline of corporate practice in the oil and gas sector, by Clare Bebbington (Audire Consultants), Emma Wilson (ECW Energy), Laura Smith and Jamie Van Alstine (Leeds University). The paper aims to shed some light on the role of CLOs and others who play a key role at the interface of communities, government and extractive industry companies. The paper is based on a review of current academic and practitioner literature; a questionnaire survey; and a series of interviews with CLOs and industry managers. The paper offers analysis and a set of recommendations for improving organisational effectiveness, supporting CLO teams and building capacities. It also suggests further areas of work, including research and development of corporate training tools and guidance.
Key challenges identified by CLOs include:
The paper highlights two areas that stand out as being particularly crucial for industry practitioners:
Recruiting the ‘right’ CLOs with clear roles and coherent responsibilities is a priority for line managers. But there is a need to better understand and articulate the challenges of structuring teams and improving the way in which CLOs are supported.
Other recommendations include the following:
We also identified several areas of further study including:
Above all, in any future research it is important that CLOs themselves play a central role, including authoring papers, sharing experiences and training others.
We believe this work will be of interest to all those involved in the development, execution and financing of major projects and operations, particularly in challenging and complex environments. We also hope that it will provide CLOs with access to useful tools and support – and most importantly, a voice in future industry planning.
Download the paper here: https://tinyurl.com/communityliaisonofficers
For more information contact:
Clare Bebbington: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Wilson: email@example.com
Laura Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Van Alstine: email@example.com
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